Is Hell A Natural Place
or A Spiritual One?
If Hell is a spiritual place, then the question must be asked, how can living people, still in their flesh, fall into it, as in Numbers 16:30-33, where we are told that God opened the earth to swallow up Dathan and Abiram after they led a revolt against Moses? The Bible specifically states that those rebels fell alive into Sheol. And Dathan and Abiram are not the only examples of people in a physical body being cast alive into fires of damnation. We are told in Revelation 19:20 that when Jesus returns to reign on earth for a thousand years, the Beast and the False Prophet will be "thrown alive into the Lake of Fire that burns with sulfur." And in Psalm 55:15, the Spirit of Christ prayed through David that his enemies would be cast into Hell alive, but we are never told exactly when that prayer for vengeance was answered or upon whom that vengeance fell. In addition, there are several Scriptures suggesting that physical things can descend into Hell. For example, we are told that there are "things under the earth" (Phip. 2:10). It is obvious that some of these "things" are the souls of men (Rev. 5:3), but until we are given clearer information, we must leave open the possibility that "things under the earth" includes more than the souls of men (Rev. 5:13). For example, Ezekiel 32:27 says, "And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to Sheol with their weapons of war." In this verse, Ezekiel may have been speaking poetically and Sheol might best be translated here simply as "grave", but the phrase "gone down to Sheol" is normally used in reference to Hell.
On the other hand, if Hell is a natural place, then the question must be asked, how can spirits go there? We know that the souls of men go into Hell on the basis of Scriptures such as these: "For you will not leave my soul in Sheol; neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption" (Ps. 16:10); "But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; for He shall receive me" (Ps. 49:15); "You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from Sheol" (Prov. 23:14). And while Solomon mentioned saving a soul from Sheol (Prov. 23:14), he never said anything about saving a body from it. (Of course, it wouldn't make much sense to think that a body could be saved from Sheol if the word Sheol only means "grave" as at least one religious sect teaches.)
All things considered, the conclusion that seems most reasonable is that Hell is a spiritual place. Natural law dictates that the earthly, physical bodies of those whom God cast alive into Hell or the Lake of Fire cannot survive without earthly, physical sustenance. Even in the case of the Beast, we are told that those who cast him down to the Pit killed him (Ezek. 28:1-8; the "Pit" mentioned here is not the Bottomless Pit). So, earthly bodies cast alive into the flames of damnation must certainly die quickly, being in a place where there is not so much as a drop of water, not to mention being a place of vehement flames. Then, simple common sense tells us that the natural body dies before the soul enters into Hell itself, though in a few rare instances, a few persons have provoked God sufficiently to cause Him to cast them down to Hell while they still were in their natural bodies.
Of course, God can make exceptions to any natural law so that common sense is useless. Jesus and Elijah (Mt. 4:2; 1Kgs. 19:8) went without food or water for forty consecutive days. Common sense says that cannot be done. And Moses did this twice while Israel was camped at Mt. Sinai (Dt. 9:1-18), with just a few days between those two forty-day periods.
So, if God is so provoked by any people that He chooses to have them suffer in Hell while in their earthly bodies, He will do so, no matter what the Scriptures or common sense tells us. The Bible is for us to live by, not Him. There is nothing I have written here, or that any man has ever written, that binds God to a certain course of action. I am just pointing out the fact that, apart from a miracle on His part, no one can live in Hell or in the Lake of Fire in a natural, human body. It was God, you will remember, who said that man was made from dirt and that to dirt he would return. But, this was said only of man's body. The spirit of life that God breathed into Adam's earthly body was not made from dirt, and that spirit has never become dirt after any man has died. The spirit of man lives on after the body returns to dirt. That is why this study of Hell is even worth taking the time to do.